Cypress Wood

Below are some common questions & answers about cypress lumber that were provided by Jimmy's Cypress.  They're a specialty lumber company which markets, sells, manufactures, and ships its cypress products direct to the public, nationwide.  Their history with cypress goes back three generations to the early 1920's.  If you're looking to buy cypress lumber please check out our neighbors from Austin, Texas - Jimmy's Cypress!

Q: Why should I use cypress?

Because it's a beautiful, straight grained, light colored wood with a wonderful fragrance that is very durable. With its legendary hardiness and durability, cypress also works well outside the home, including siding, trim, decks, fences, shutters, window boxes and landscape design elements. When milled, cypress typically displays a predominantly yellow tone, with reddish, chocolate or olive hues. Noted for its color consistency, density, and relative lack of knots, cypress is superbly workable, easily machined and installed, and readily finished.

Q: Where does cypress come from?

In the United States, most cypress trees are natives of the South. They are found primarily in wet, swampy areas along the Atlantic Coastal Plain from Delaware to Florida, and west along the Gulf of Mexico to the border of Texas and Mexico. Cypress also thrives along the Mississippi Valley from the Louisiana delta to southern Indiana. While cypress has always been THE architectural choice in the South and East, many builders and trade professionals throughout the U.S. are using cypress in what had traditionally been cedar, redwood and treated pine applications.

Q: How much cypress is grown United States?

Annual cypress production is about 100-120 million board feet (6000-7000 truckloads). It is generally believed that cypress trees are growing at a faster rate than they're being harvested.

Q: What does rough sawn and smooth planed mean?

Rough sawn wood has a rough saw texture and APPROXIMATE, ROUGH DIMENSIONS. It could have stick marks left during the drying process, weathering (grey or charcoal colored), and small metal banding marks where it was bundled together.

Smooth planed wood has been run through a wood planer which gives it a smooth finish, similar to a 2x4 you'd find at the lumberyard. It's milled to exact dimensions and planed on all four sides unless specified otherwise.

Q: Is cypress a softwood or a hardwood?

Cypress is a softwood, but it is graded under a special section of the National Hardwood Lumber Association's rules. Although it has needlelike leaves typical of softwoods, cypress loses its needles during the autumn and winter, hence the "bald cypress" name is commonly used.

Q: How dry is your cypress?

We dry our cypress to a moisture content of approximately 15%. Timbers and items custom sawn (from logs) for your job will be freshly sawn, wet wood with a moisture content of up to 50%.

Q: Is cypress a good interior flooring material?

Yes, cypress flooring is a good choice, but it is a relatively soft wood and will take on an "aged" look when used in high traffic areas. To give it a harder finish, you might consider sealing it with Waterlox's "Oil Modified Urethane" or similar product.

Q: Is cypress easy to work with?

Yes! Cypress works well with both hand and power tools. The wood planes easily and resists warping. Although cypress is resinous, the resin (called cypressene) isn't a sticky sap like other woods. It glues well, sands easily and readily accepts finishes.

Q: How should I finish my cypress?

For interior walls and ceilings, two coats of a polyurethane varnish should be sufficient. The first coat will raise the grain a little bit, so you might lightly sand before applying the second coat. You can also paint your interior cypress if desired, using standard painting procedures.

For exteriors you can let it weather naturally, but it will perform better if sealed with either a clear stain, colored stain, or paint. If using stains, use an oil based wood stain with a mildew inhibitor. Clear stains last 1-3 years, semi-transparent colored stains (wood grain still visible) last 3-5 years, and solid colored stains last 5-10 years, and paints last 10-20 years.

Furthermore, the USDA Forest Products Laboratory has some great articles in PDF format:

If it's going to be used indoors, you should use varnish (polyurethane). The first coat raises the grain. After a light sanding, apply a light second coat for a very smooth finish. Varnishes are available in glossy to non-glossy finishes and can be darkened a bit to your tastes.

Q: How many different types of cypress do we have in the U.S.?

There is one species of cypress grown in the United States, scientific name Taxodium Distichtim. Bald cypress is the most common name, but it's also known by many other different marketing names like gulf cypress, red cypress, tidewater red cypress, white cypress, yellow cypress. It's called bald cypress because it loses its needles in the Fall.

Q: Is cypress durable?

Cypress has a natural preservative oil known as cypressene which gives the heartwood resistance to insects and decay. With a suitable surface treatment, cypress generally has a superior durability, holding paint well and resisting weather.

Q: How does cypress compare with pine and cedar?

Cypress grows slowly, so the rings are much closer than in most wood species. These close rings tend to make cypress more energy efficient, and decreased shrinkage makes it more durable and stable. In its natural state, the wood is a pale honey color and unsealed, weathers to an even gray on the surface (natural color can easily be restored if desired.)

Pine grows quickly, which results in wider growth rings, and a more porous surface. This means treatment is required to prevent rot and insect attack. This porous wood stains through the face and with treatment becomes somewhat darker. Untreated material will stain deep toward the core leaving permanent marks and becoming subject to mold and rot. For this reason, natural weathering is not recommended. Wet pine is well known to move (shrink and warp or cup) substantially as it dries.

Cedar is a darker wood with heavy odor (check for allergic sensitivity). A lightweight and porous wood, it weathers and absorbs treatment resulting in darker tones. Knots tend to be loosened after time and much more frequent than in cypress.

Q: What is the difference between Board Feet, Square Feet, and Linear Feet?

Board Feet is a measurement of volume: it is a term used within the lumber industry equal to a piece of wood 12”x12”x1” thick, or 144 cubic inches. Our products are offered in linear feet.

Square Feet is a measurement of area: it’s like the floor area of your home, simply width x length, for example 40’ wide x 30’ long = 1200 square feet.

Linear Feet is a measurement of length: it only measures how long something is, not its width or thickness. So, a piece of wood 1"x6"x16’ and a piece of wood 4”x8”x16’ are both 16 linear feet of wood. Also, if you are 5’-6” tall, that means you are 5’-6” linear feet long.

Q: How do I find out how many Linear Feet I need to cover a certain area?

First, determine how much square footage (area) you have to cover. If it is a wall 10’ high and 50’ long, that’s 10’x50’=500 Square Feet. Next, pick the cypress product that you want to use. Determine the coverage for that product. The coverage (in inches) is shown on each of our product pages. Then, divide 12 by that number, and that new number is what we call a Conversion Factor. That Conversion Factor is how many linear feet you will need of that product to cover one square foot of area. Then multiply your Square Footage by that Conversion Factor, and voila!, you now know exactly how much of that cypress product you will need to cover that area. We suggest you add 5%-10% extra to be safe.

Example: Cover a floor with cypress 6" Select Bevel Siding, item #60scy:

  1. Area to cover: floor of 13’x18.5’=240.5 square feet.
  2. Item chosen to cover floor: Select Reclaimed Longleaf Pine Flooring 1x6 (coverage of 4-3/4”)
  3. 12 divided by 4-3/4” = 2.53, which is the Conversion Factor
  4. Multiply 240.5 square feet x 2.53 Conversion Factor = 608 Linear Feet.
  5. Add 5%-10% extra.

Q: Why should I be very careful about buying cypress mulch?

The cypress mulch industry is really growing. There is so much demand for this product that some cypress lumber mills are buying very small (3" diameter at chest height) cypress trees and shredding the WHOLE TREE into mulch. This is a short sighted source of income for them as these young trees are way too small for building material use and hurt the sustainability of our industry.

Normally, cypress trees are stripped of their bark prior to sawing into lumber. The bark is a BY-PRODUCT of the cypress lumber sawmilling operation and is often sold as mulch. Certainly this is acceptable.

How can you tell the difference? The bark of cypress is flimsy and darker than the wood, which is blondish. The best way to be sure you're buying a good product is to visit the place where the mulch is produced and see for yourself what it's made from. We don't sell mulch.

©2009 Jimmy's Cypress - Question's About Cypress Wood